Monday, January 22, 2007

Washington phillips on The Great Pop Supplement

This is released by an amazing label: The great pop supplement. I don't know why I just found out about this place...all seven inches, super limited, amazing stuff...of course way too late to get any of them except the most recent three still in print, which I will be talking about this week.

This label is a seven inch goldmine beginning with this Washington Phillips 45. It's like I don't want to tell anyone about that record store I never see anyone in with more 7 inches than I can possibly buy all at once for dirt cheap. They don't know what they have, and I don't want to tell them.

I forget what mailing list I saw this on, but for some reason I decided to investigate further. I think in the description it talked about him making his own instrument and I thought about Harry Partch and why that isn't done more these days. Why does that seem like such a gimmick? Would be hard to really take seriously an act that all of a sudden had a sound you never heard before? Would it be pretentious to start messing around with a guitar? I know there are tons of experimental act playing with manipulated instruments or parts of them. I guess it just doesn't turn up in hugely commercially successful music.

I think at one time or another everyone takes a few months to try to absorb the blues, to take it all in . I know it gave birth to just about everything, I know about the mystery of Robert Johnson, I went off in a few directions to lightning hopkins, or blind lemon. This was a scarey mysterious musical world, that sounded like the time period, weather it was the recording method or equipment, something about it can sound so eerie, so otherworldly. I bought a leadbelly record on the street for a dollar, and that was the sound, every crackle and dirt lined groove. I am far from even having the slightest knowledge, but I knew it was the most important thing I could ony barely understand
but I digress....
I tracked down the label and contacted Dom, who sent the few releases still on the shelves. All of their 7 inches, and that's all they release, are in editions 100 or 200, so check back often if you want to catch something, I'm sure they are all are worth ordering.

I started poking around online and stumbled into this mysterious figure from the very beginnings of music as we know it. There is a huge legend behind Washington phillips as a quick google search will attest to. Musicologists debating how much his instrument, a Dolceola, was reworked, or even if it was this instrument. Was it changed out of neccessity or ingenuity. Even his life after these recordings remains a mystery, everyone interviewed can hardly remember details. At this point the only thing left are 18 songs, played on this harp sounding instrument. Everytime I put the needle back to the beginning I'm suprised all over again. The two tracks here: 'Denomonation blues' and ' Take your burden to the lord and leave it there' are excellent transfers, there isn't a pop or crackle, or the usual noise I have associated with anything from this time period. In fact it's a little strange to have this material on a brand new crystal clear record, if it could sound any more removed.

'Denomonation blues' asks all faiths to remember the point, describing baptists, methodists, and the fighting...'but you better have jesus...I tell ya that's all.' I feel like I have no place singing along but I can't help it. It doesn't help I know it after 50 listens.
the AA side, (true there can't be any b-sides) 'Take your burden...' is a gospel, reminding us through all kinds of adversity just take all that trouble piling up and give it to the lord. Let him deal with it. Good advice.

I have to get into the packaging too... pop supplement has outdone itself with the handmade treasures inside. An acetate photo of washington himself, multiple xeroxed liner notes on the recordings, the 7 inch inside a brown paper sleeve stamped with the great pop supplement. They even include one of those yellow adapters for the oversized hole. They really elevate this release to a precious artifact. No wonder there's such a limited run, what are they trying to pull another blue monday? This has to be the only vinyl release of this material I'll ever be lucky enough to hear.

This isn't the usual blues stuff, nevermind the high strumming zither, these are optomistic songs about perseverance... and yes, the lord. I could imagine this stuff would make you put that bottle back down and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Washington Phillips
Denomination Blues Part One/Take Your Burden To The Lord And Leave It There
The Great Pop Supplement GPS-12

Two sides from the late Washington Philips, preacher, vocalist and player of a hand-built ‘Dolceola’, a particularly celestial-sounding strummed harp/dulcimer that was played with keys like a piano and was marketed as a “miniature grand piano”. Phillips cut a series of gospel sides in the late 1920s that still sound completely otherworldly and have little parallel in the folk/blues continuum. Supremely benign atmosphere combines with beautiful bell-tones that reflect on aspects as diverse as the improvisations of William Parker, the Highball settings of Harry Partch, the lunar blues of MV & EE and the Venusian magic of primer-era Scorces. This beautifully packaged set bundles two great 1927 cuts with liners by Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3, a mylar-printed picture, insert, jukebox spindle and hand-numbered sleeve, edition of 220 copies.

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